A History of the Orange Blossom Cocktail
The Orange Blossom is a classic Prohibition-era cocktail that was popular because the orange juice masked the off flavors of low quality gin produced at the time The flavor is orange juice with just a hint of gin. Most recipes call for gomme syrup as the sweetener but, using grenadine instead adds some pomegranate flavor
This simple “gin and juice” concoction was a hit among the scores of illegal drinkers during the years of prohibition. The most prevalent version is simply gin, orange juice with the optional addition of simple syrup. An alternate version comes to us by means of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel bar and consists of gin, orange juice and Italian vermouth in equal parts.
Orange Blossom Infographic:
Quotes about the Orange Blossom:
1934 – This was invented at the old Waldorf to honor a visiting Irish poet. He never got to his dinner. – From “Irvin S. Cobb’s Own Recipe Book”
1955 – The reason there were so many hasty marriages during Prohibition. “Authentic and hilarious bar guide” by Ted Shane
- Reportedly the first drink that humorist and Algonquin Round Table and “Vicious Circle” member, Robert Benchley ever imbibed. Circa 1920s Tony’s restaurant (a well-known speakeasy on 49th street), turned to his friend Dorothy Parker and said: “Let’s find out what all the fuss is about”. Reportedly, Benchley took but one sip looked around the room and stated, “This place ought to be closed by law”.
- September 9, 1921: Virginia Rappe met her death — allegedly — under the crushing weight of Fatty Arbuckle after slugging down Orange Blossoms during a wild party at the Hotel St. Francis in San Francisco.
- Circa 1921-1922: Zelda Fitzgerald and drinking buddy Helen Buck were said to have consumed a thermos full of Orange Blossoms — they had had already consumed a pitcher of them at lunch — before being discovered wandering lost on a golf course in Great Neck. Zelda was heard singing: “You can throw a Silver dollar upon ground, And it’ll roll, because it’s round…”. Eventually, Ring Lardner found them and drove the women home.
- February 1, 1922: Hours before his still-unsolved murder, famed silent director, William Desmond Taylor (aka William Cunningham Deane-Tanner), enjoyed Orange Blossoms with Mabel Normand at his apartment. Below is the police photo of the cocktail tray taken at the scene.
- Summer, 1925: Charlie Chaplin and Louise Brooks enjoyed a raucous night chasing each other about their hotel suite as a result of too many Orange Blossoms.
- 1934: Esquire magazine names the Orange Blossom (along with the Bronx, the Brandy Alexander and the Clover Club) as one of the worst drinks of the decade.
- July 23, 1948: While living in New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel, silent film director D.W. Griffith, a dedicated Orange Blossom aficionado, lined his room’s windows with ripe oranges, so they would always be at the ready for his favorite cocktail.
recipe adapted from The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book
- 3/4 oz gin
- 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
- 3/4 oz orange juice
Stir with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby, By Sarah Churchwell
Contraband Cocktails: How America Drank When It Wasn’t Supposed To By Paul Dickson
Hemingway, Mark Bailey and Edward. Of All the Gin Joints: Stumbling through Hollywood History. New York: Workman, 2014.